Monday, July 21, 2008

the hope that somehow gets passed around

"and yet the comfort somehow gets passed around: a few words that are never forgotten, a note in the mail, a look, a touch, a pat, a hug, a kind of waiting with, a kind of standing by, to the end. Once in a while we hear it sung out in a hymn, when every throat seems suddenly widened with love and common language."

-Wendell Berry, from the novel: Hannah Coulter

Those who know me well know that as much as I love making music, and as much as I love producing records and playing in bands – that I actually am very uncomfortable playing when asked, especially in intimate social settings. I clam up. My heart rate spikes, I feel the blood running to my face, and on the rare occasion when I do actually play for people, I never play very well. it’s like my hands are in chains. My thoughts are racing. I’m not free. I’m just playing because I was asked to play. It is something about myself that I really do not understand, and the older I get, the worse it gets.

Those who know me well also, even though they know how uncomfortable it makes me, from time to time ask me to play for them. and in the past weeks, some friends have gathered at my house on a couple of occasions for the odd activity of singing songs together. It makes for an awkward, delightful, eerie evening. One where people suggest songs and we somehow get through them, realizing that something way bigger than any of us is taking place.

Last night was one of those nights. Our friend Cheryl, who recently lost her husband Dewayne, was the guest of honor, the one we all were gathered around. Nobody said it. it didn’t need to be said. But it was true. And so we had a meal together, and we had wine, and we talked for a long time, and then we went to the piano and my face was red and sweaty and my hands were locked and I told everybody how awkward the music was, but that it was all I could do, and we sang songs and we wept and we sang some more.

at one point brooke looked at me and she said, "Brian, play..." and I sort of looked around the room at the faces of those who were with me and said, "I can't."

and then we sang some more.


Aaron said...

sitting in my chair in my living room reading this just makes me see the great need for other people. what would those songs be if there were not people to sing them with? sometimes when i look up on Sunday mornings, i find myself thankful for my friends singing towards me. when they sings words like:
"Poor thou I am, despised, forgot,
Yet God, my God, forgets me not;
And he is safe, and must succeed,
For whom, the Lord is sure to plead."

nice to hear friends remind me i am not forgotten. nice to be reminded of that, here in my chair, tonight.

brett said...

well said.

Shane said...

you know, i never really read anyones blog but i found myself on your blog and it was quite refreshing.

Susannah said...

I'm glad you did it. I think the factor is that you didn't decided to do it, other people decided it for you. I have to get over that a lot. But I still love to play, so I forget about it.

Ethan said...

this is beautiful.